1 John: Filling the Buckets

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I am so thankful for the chance to speak with you today.   This morning we are going to look at a bunch of scripture.  Then we’re going to hear a few stories and then celebrate. Scripture, stories, celebration.

First – scripture.   Now we’ve been in the book of 1 John now – this is our Seventh week – we have two more weeks after this.  And by now I hope that you have heard us say that the John – by now the last living disciple of Jesus, in his older age, takes time to write his churches to instruct them – and we mentioned that the book of 1 John is about three things.

In fact – if you were to go back through and read 1 John this week looking for which verse belongs in which bucket- you will be able to put almost all of John’s first letter into one of these three buckets.  Right Teaching.  Right Loving.  And Right living.  (I actually write these three things in my bible in the top of the first page.)

This morning we are going to look inside the bucket entitled Right Living, and if we were to pour out it’s contents onto a table we really see it play out in two significant ways.

Six different times in these 5 chapters John tells us that we can know we love God by obeying his commands. 1 John 2:3  That’s a very broad subject – but to John – one of the ways we know we’ve crossed over from death to life in Jesus is that we pray Thy will be done.

The defining prayer of a follower of Jesus is, Thy will be done.  The prayer of ‘the world’ is no prayer at all, but a declaration – My will be done.  Thy will be done is the theme of life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Christians don’t ignore God’s word.  We don’t embrace what we know to be wrong.  We don’t feel that we are missing out on something good by not sinning.

Dallas Willard writes, “Children of light are governed by the pull of the good.  Their energy is not invested in not doing what is wrong, but in doing what is good.  Whatever desires one might have for something that is forbidden by God are regarded as ridiculous, not as something to be seriously thought about.  They do not regard sin as something good, but as slop – which is exactly what everyone knows after engaging in it.” Renovation of the Heart

Now this doesn’t mean we will do this perfectly, no one does, we are all still fighting and struggling and confessing when we fail, but the goal is progress – we are moving forward, fighting the good fight of faith, in our work of doing what we know we should do.

Christians obey the Lord.  Six times John sums up the contents of the Right living Bucket with the very general statement – obey him.   This is virtually the only command that comes out of the “Right Living” bucket.  With one notable exception.

So let’s read the passage in 1 John 3:16-18 NIV

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 

17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 

18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

True love is revealed not only in the supreme sacrifice of Jesus, it is also expressed in all the lesser ways that we care for one another – especially the poor.  Especially the needy.

So when we pour out the bucket here – obey God is John’s teaching – especially when it comes to taking care of the poor and the needy.   Brothers and sisters, we are called as followers of Jesus to care for the poor.  To become the kinds of people who share and provide out of our abundance in order to help people in need.

This has been God’s teaching to his people from the very beginning God’s dealing with his people.  In fact –  John here is is simply restating what has been taught to the Jewish nation for 1500 years – Deuteronomy 15:7,8, that says…

“But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need.

Not tight fisted but generous.  That’s been God’s desire for his people from the beginning.  Especially towards the poor.

Now – this is important to mention – someone might look at both of these passages and say – God wants to Jewish people to be generous to Jewish people.  And John is talking to the church about being generous to the church.

But in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, generosity towards non-jewish and non-believing people is explicitly taught.

Deut 10: 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

As well – in the New Testament –  verse like Galatians 6:10 teach us to extend hospitality to the poor regardless of their beliefs…  Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

It is God’s desire that his people be generous and helpful and compassionate to the poor.   Why?

1.  First and foremost – is because it pleases God.  Hebrews 13:16, 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

Why would it please God to care for the poor?  Well, remember his son Jesus was born into a poor family.  Mary and Joseph – and we can tell by the sacrifice they offered in the temple was the sacrifice that the poorest of poor people offered to the Lord.

Could it be that God has a heart for the refugee because his son and our Lord Jesus was also a refugee?  He lived for years in Egypt – where – remember the story of Joseph and his brothers – the Israelites didn’t speak the language.  Jesus grew up in a country where he didn’t speak the native language.  I wonder f Jesus had to translate for his parents like many refugee children do today in classes like – well like the classroom my wife teaches in in Omaha – filled with refugees.

When we care for the poor and the refugee – and the widow- did I mention he widow?  Jesus’ mother was a apparently a widow – by the time Jesus is an adult Joseph is apparently deceased.  When we care for the poor, the refugee, the hurting, the widow and the orphan – we please our heavenly father.

2.  Secondly – we will be blessed for doing it.  And blessed – not necessarily money blessed – but we will be happy.  It pleases us.

Psalm 41:1  Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble. 

3. But there’s yet another reason why it is God’s will that we care for the poor – and it’s an interesting one.  God wants us to care for the poor in order to win the nations! 

Let me go back to Deuteronomy again – this time back to chapter 4 – where Moses is explaining why he is giving them the laws and why he wants them to obey them.

Deut. 4

Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’ For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him? And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today?

What is going on in this passage?  Here we get a glimpse into a little divine strategy!  See, it’s God’s desire that the entire world might know him and Him.  The nations have always been in God’s view.  And He knows that anytime someone is willing to give away their money to help someone in need – especially to someone in need that they don’t know – someone who might not even share their faith?  Well – That’s going to be noticed.  That’s going to make the world ask – what kind of love is this?  From what planet is THIS kind of love?

See in the world – even gangsters take care of their own.  The Sopranos take care of their people – but Jesus tells us – love people who actively hate you and see what the world thinks of that.

What this world is looking for is something that is different.  Something that stands out as unlike this world.  And so from the very beginning of God’s interaction with people he calls “his people”, it’s been God’s desire that the way we love the world will cause others to ask themselves – why are they doing this?  What makes them different?

This divine strategy to win the world is repeated by Jesus in Matt 5: 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

And by the way – it works – and it always has.

We’ve got lots of scripture – now for some stories…  and then a celebration.

As far back as the second century AD – when there was a plague and famine in Alexandria – that left thousands dead in the streets – many people of the city fled out of the city – but not the Christians.  Historian Eusibius writes of the Christians…

“The zeal and piety of the Christians were obvious to all the heathen.  In this awful adversity they alone gave practical proof of their sympathy and humanity.  All day long some of them tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them.  Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from the famine and distributed bread to them all, so that their deeds were on everyone’s lips and they glorified the God of the Christians. 

Or in the 4th century we read about the emperor Julian – who was no fan of Christians – he called the Christian “Atheists” because they refused to worship the Roman Pantheon of Gods.  and in fact – it irritated him to no end that – during a time of famine and plague in the roman empire – once again it was the Christians who demonstrated poise and compassion to the poor and hurting – and here’s how Julian…

‘Atheism [I.e. the Christian faith!] has been specially advanced
through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”

Now let’s bring the stories closer to home.  Since 2011 we’ve been working in the Bako region of Mali West Africa to bring health care and the good news of Jesus to some of the most remote parts of Africa.

We are honored to have been invited into what God is doing in Mali.  We are honored to care for some of the worlds very poorest.  We prayed for Jan’s orphanage earlier today – and let me follow up our joy with what God is doing in Mali and Togo.

I looked up some stats – And of course these stats aren’t all due to our work – there are many agencies at work addressing this issue – but we’re excited to be able to say that it’s working.   

  • Infant Mortality (of 1000 children, how many will die before their first birthday) has dropped from 85 would die before their first birthday.  Last year it’s 60.  That’s a fantastic news. 
  • Maternal Mortality rate has gone from 663 down to 562.
  • Life expectancy has increased by 5 years since we started working… From 55 years old to 60. 

Now – to what end?  Spiritually – the goal is that in every town where there is a health center – a church will be planted.  And so far of the nine villages we’ve built health centers in, three of those towns now have a church.

As well – where once there was no church – there is a church in Adamabougou, Famarillo, Kallan, – here’s the picture of the church there – small – sure…  But I’ll tell you that I hope you are every bit as proud and excited about that building as the one going up at 200th and Hampton Drive.

I sat in that town.  Near where that building sits.  In that town – there was exactly one Christian when I had the chance to visit.  He was the teacher and he asked me – to please come quickly – he was so lonely.  Now he’s meeting in this house worshipping with fellow believers.

Three years ago – we began working in Togo – where we expect to see similar results…

We are committed to helping those people in need around the world – as well as in our community – We are committed to caring for the poor as a church.

Are you part of it?  John writes his church then and now to exhort us to care about the poor.  Are you part of what’s happening? Have you created room in your budget to be generous to the poor?  I hope so!  Because caring for the poor pleases God, and it blesses the generous one, and it wins the nations.

Let me close with this story – it’s a memory really.  But I think it’s appropriate.

While I was the middle school pastor at Christ Community we planned a missions trip to Mexico every year.  It was an exciting trip – where we drove to El Paso and worked in Juarez.

Part of the trip was helping students become responsible – and that included taking care of their own money – each student had to bring like $50 bucks with them to buy some trinkets and stuff for family and friends in Mexico.

I’ll never forget the year we took Ben with us – and what I remember about Ben is this – we stopped in Ogallala for lunch.  Five hours into the trip.  We ate at, I think it was a taco bell.  Inside the taco bell was a claw deal.  You put money in the claw and try to win a stuffed animal.

I want you to know I watched Ben put dollar after dollar into the machine in an effort to win a stuffed animal for this girl he was sweet on.  I tried to tell him, Ben, you’re wasting you money, man!  You only have a certain amount.  Why don’t you think about how you’re spending them.

But no – Ben couldn’t stop – he had to have that bear!  He did ‘win’ that bear – it cost him $30.  Ben ran out of money about Tuesday.  Guess who he came to asking for a loan?  Me!  I told him, never ever ever ever ever ever.  Something like that.

Life is about to serve you a lesson Ben.  If you waste your money on frivolous things, you will have nothing left for the important things…

And then I have to ask myself – Phil – how much of your life has been spent devoted to winning the bear – to beating the claw – to chasing things that have no eternal significance.

Listen, here’s the deal, you and I have limited resources at our disposal.  We have been given a certain amount of, not only money, but days.

What are we spending our days on?  Are we spending them on the right things?  Or are we spending our days on the claw?

There are some things that God really cares about.  And making it to the top of his list – he cares about people.  Especially people who are hurting and in need of help.  The outcast, the poor, the orphans, the widows.  The stranger, the prisoners. the poor.

The cynic might say, if God cares about them, why doesn’t HE do something to help them. And I say, He has.  He’s plopped you and I right down next to them and has asked us to be the kind of people who help.

I am very proud of you Journey.  Let’s together continue to be a generous church that cares for the poor.